Over the past few years, I’ve had the pleasure of hearing Eric Sheninger share his passion for digital leadership. You can imagine that when I heard about the new edition of his bestselling book, I had plenty of questions! The first edition sits on the bookshelf of my office. It’s full of practical, actionable information and the big ideas that support best practices for digital leadership.
If you aren’t familiar with Eric’s work, he is a Senior Fellow and Thought Leader on Digital Leadership with the International Center for Leadership in Education (ICLE). Eric is the author of numerous books including Learning Transformed: 8 Keys To Designing Tomorrow’s Schools, Today. You might have seen him give a keynote address or lead a workshop on one of these topics.
His book, Digital Leadership: Changing Paradigms for Changing Times is now in its second edition. Eric was kind enough to answer my questions about this new edition of Digital Leadership. You can find his answers below.
Why Digital Leadership Can’t Wait
What motivated you to write a book on this topic?
Society is now in the midst of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which was in its infancy as I began writing the first edition of this book. Change isn’t coming; it is already on our doorstep and about to knock down the front door. The need for digital leadership now is more urgent than a few years ago. Our learners will need to thrive and survive in a world that is almost impossible to predict thanks to exponential advances in technology. Automation and robotics are already disrupting the world of work, as we know it.
The Internet of Things (IoT) impacts virtually all of us. Have you heard of it? Perhaps not, but once you know what it is you can see how it connects to your life. Wikipedia defines IoT as a network of physical devices, vehicles, home appliances and other items embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and connectivity which enables these objects to connect and exchange data. How are we preparing learners for this world? How are we adapting and evolving?
Leadership is Changing
How is leadership in schools changing today?
As times change, so must the practice of leaders to establish a culture of learning that is relevant, research-based, and rooted in relationships. Digital leadership is all about people and how their collective actions aligned with new thinking, ideas, and tools can help to build cultures primed for success. It represents a strategic mindset and set of behaviors that leverage resources to create a meaningful, transparent, and engaging school culture to prepare learners now and well into the future.
The digital before leadership implies how mindsets and behaviors must change to harness current and emerging resources to set the stage for improving outcomes and professional practice. The Pillars of Digital Leadership provide a focus that can move us from talk to implementation and eventually evidence of improved outcomes. These guiding elements are embedded throughout all school cultures, which compel us in many cases to do what we already do better. I hope to flesh out each of these pillars more than I did the first time while also including many more strategies to aid in practical implementation. As for other significant inclusions, efficacy will be a substantial component of this edition as it was reasonably absent the first go around.
Bring Digital Leadership to Your School
What can readers expect to see in the second edition?
In this new edition I have weaved in what I have learned in the field helping schools apply the concepts to bring about evidence-based results. Practical and realistic, this version compels all educators to lead from where they are as actions – not title, position, or power – are the key to sustainable changes that lead to actual improvements validated by both qualitative and quantitative measures. Here are a few specific highlights and additions:
Effort the make the book “evergreen.” Tools and products will change. However, the means to implement them to transform teaching, learning, and leadership will remain relatively stable. This edition is written in a way to withstand the test of time.
- Re-organized chapters and updated content
- Built-in study guide.
- Fewer tools, more on leadership dispositions. Anyone and everyone can be a digital leader. The new edition speaks to all educators and empowers them to leverage their specific role to usher in needed change regardless of title.
- Updated and expanded research base
- Forward by Sugata Mitra.
- Pick and choose structure so that readers can place an emphasis on the most pressing, important concepts that they want to focus on to bring about needed change now.
- Full color
- Digital resources curated at the end of the book.
Digital Leadership in Action
In your book, you discuss the importance of school culture as a change agent. Is there a school you’ve seen make a significant shift in school culture regarding the use of technology?
There sure is and that school is Wells Elementary in Cypress, TX. They have succeeded because it is a team effort. Every teacher and administrator embraces a shared vision as to what learning can and should look like. To top it off this school is one of the most pedagogically-sound blended learning campuses that I have ever seen. I routinely call this a school of dreams. There is so much more I can say. I hope readers will take a look at some of the specific aspects of the culture at Wells Elementary related to the purposeful use of technology in a series of posts that can be accessed HERE.
Do you have advice for a school leader who is looking to promote buy-in in their school or district?
In the real world of education results matter as well as how we arrive at them. Naturally then, this updated edition has research-based, evidence-driven, and learner-focused ideas and strategies that are innovative in nature that lead to observable improvements. The last chapter of the book weaves all the concepts together while emphasizing the importance of efficacy in any change initiative.
What educators will appreciate in this edition is how practical and realistic the approaches are. Ideas are great, but they have to consider the realities and challenges that schools and educators face across the world. They also need to align with the core work that educators engage in daily. The key with this update throughout is for readers to either grasp new ideas and strategies to readily implement or look to improve what they might already be doing.
What is one thing an educator can do tomorrow to start putting your ideas into action?
Improve the work then share the work. It’s as simple as it is effective. The main focus and supporting strategies in the book are really about empowering all educators regardless of position to take a critical lens to pedagogical practices in order to better meet the needs of all learners while improving outcomes in the process. It is not about throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Instead working smarter, not harder, to get better results. After enhancements are made the next step is to share the work to show value, increase scalability, celebrate success, and build a repository of evidence that show have innovative practices are being successfully implemented in classrooms, schools, and districts across the world.
Digital Leadership Book Club
Do you have advice for an educator who wants to host a book club for your book?
There is a study guide built right into the book. Each chapter ends with 4-5 discussion and reflection questions that push educators to take action. I encourage any group that engages in a book study to use #digilead on social media. Use the hashtag to share out thinking, ideas, reflections and action steps. This way I can answer any questions and add commentary as needed. If my schedule permits I will video conference with participants at the end of the book study. Just reach out to me through my website (ericsheninger.com) to schedule.
Where can folks connect with you if they’d like to stay in touch?
I am accessible through virtually every social media site. Make sure to connect with me on Twitter (@E_Sheninger) and Instagram (@esheninger) especially if you are going to do a book study. For more more information about the work I do with schools and districts please visit my website. You can also reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Make sure to check out the new edition of Eric’s book on Amazon. You can grab your copy in paperback or ebook format using this link, Digital Leadership: Changing Paradigms for Changing Times. Already read the new edition? Share your takeaways in the comments below!